It might take 18 years for your IPO

Today I finished reading an excellent memoir.

Shoe Dog, the recently published book by Phil Knight — Founder and Executive Chairman of Nike — is a fantastic read that demonstrates how challenging it is to build a massive, global business.

I lost count how many times Nike was in a near-death situation during the book. How many times they were cash constrained due to working capital requirements. The global fights against factories, distributors, piracy and even the US government. They are fighters.

Nike avoided their IPO as much as possible. I did not know that it took them 18 years to get there, but it was a necessary stepping stone for them to be around for the long term. Think of it as an old school version of a Unicorn graduation. Their IPO happened at the same $22/share price of Apple, and they went public in the same week. It might explain why Nike and Apple always had a friendly relationship.

Phil is honest with himself during the book. Mostly about the fact that he probably wasn't a heavenly father while building Nike. He talks about the difficulties of prematurely losing his son in a diving accident. I salute him for his openness on this complex topic. Sometimes these business memoirs expose little vulnerability, making them pasteurized tales of how one wins in life. Nobody needs lessons like that.

If you are a founder or investor, do yourself a favor and read this book. It will help you understand that when in doubt, you shall hustle more. Its all about "The Grit" and not running out of cash at the end of the day.

As a founder never use your gmail to talk to investors

I'm going to leave longer write-ups for the weekend, but try to post more often during the week, since content is a matter of discipline.

 

Here is some short advice for founders: I see this happening every week or so. Do not use your gmail to communicate with investors! You lose the opportunity of advertising your startup on the URL, look professional and mainly, you miss giving the investor a chance to dig deeper if he chooses to do so.

Before looking at a deck, if you cold email me with something interesting, the first reaction on my flow is to go take a look at your website.

I validate every email via Rapportive, so generally, I'm always able to put a face to a name if/when this happens and the person on the other side has their email connected to their LinkedIn account.

As an active early stage investor (we typically sign one term sheet every 2 weeks) I am in talks with over 60 companies on any given week. This would make life easier and make founders look better.

Exception goes for founders that have a personal relationship with the investor, so he is familiar with the person and project/business they are working on.

ps — I am just talking about @gmail addresses not Google Apps. Thanks for pointing that out Adolfo Builes.

pss — Gmail is still the best email host out there due to it's search capability, plug-in ecosystem and spam filter. Too bad it's so slow.

Time Management as a young VC

For those that don’t know yet, after four incredible years, I’ve left SendGrid to join the investment team at FundersClub. It’s been three months since I’ve started this new path and I could not be more excited.

Quickly I realized that time management is a crucial part of being a good VC.

It’s quite tempting to mentor, assist, attend as many events/meetups/message board/lists/founders as possible. To promise yourself that you’ll read and study everything, that you’ll take every meeting.

Being “default to yes” is a poor strategy.

Once people understand that you have access to capital, you get twice as many messages, invites and requests for coffee/beer/meetings etc.

Focus is key. Here are some things I applied to my daily routine and have proven to be quite helpful (some weekends included).

Makers Schedule vs Managers Schedule

Inspired by this Paul Graham essay, I made a decision, as a morning person, that I will dedicate my AMs to the following things:

1 — Excercise/Meditate (very important for energy levels/happiness)

I started training with a personal trainer and the results have been fantastic. Certainly won’t pay this much for exercise ($50 a session) during this year, but it made exercise a requirement to my focus/energy levels. Still need a bit more discipline on the meditation side.

2 — Most Important Tasks of the Day / Writing Investment Memos

Once I’ve eaten breakfast, exercised and read a bit of news I’ll go ahead and focus on the most important tasks of the day. I use an Eisenhower Matrix template, saved as an Evernote favorite note. For all other to-dos, I use WundersList + Email Reminders. For group tasks that need visibility, we use Asana.

Here is an example:

3 — Process Email/ Messages (no explanation required).

You can consider these activities, my “maker time”.

How do we manage to advise so many startups on the maker’s schedule? By using the classic device for simulating the manager’s schedule within the maker’s: office hours. — PG

Parsing my day out and knowing that I’ll have that block of time “to get shit done” is very comforting from a mind perspective. It allows you to work with little interruption (often done from my apartment in the Mission or Progressive Grounds coffee shop) —

I take 90% of my meetings in the afternoon and try to follow up on all the pending items, the very next day. In the beginning is hard, but once you get used to this flow, you realize you can scale yourself, pretty rapidly.

By the way, if you also want to become an investor, we are hiring for another associate.

Why you should become a morning person

It's possible amigos. I used to think that becoming a morning person was something reserved for Yoga teachers and Buddhist monks. It's the first Monday of 2015 I woke up at 4:30 AM. Not back at the regular 7AM gym sessions, but going on a run tomorrow. 

I must say, it feels glorious. 

It's about focus

Most of the people that self-proclaim as night owls are the creative types. Developers, designers and very busy founders. They say that they can only focus when nobody interrupts them. When it's quiet and silent. 

One thing I can guarantee you is that in the very early AM, nobody texts you. Nobody is messaging and you have 2-4 hours of delightful focus to go deep on anything you want. 

The advantage of doing it in the morning instead of late-nights is that you can still function for the next 10-12 hours and operate with the rest of the universe. 

Happy 2016. This will be the year of focus & abundance. 

Acelera Startups Documentary about Silicon Valley

About a month ago Cláudio Britto from Acelera Startups paid  a visit at our office in San Franciso.

I recorded an interview with him that will be a part of a documentary about Silicon Valley that he's been working on. 

Great content. Looking forward to see the full movie. You can check out the preview below.

One small observation: wish I had been told that most of the participants would be talking in English, so I would not have given my interview in Portuguese. 

If you don't speak Portuguese, sorry for the inconvenience. 

LinkedIn Passive Aggressiveness

Last week I faced an awkward situation over LinkedIn messages.

One person (which I won't name) was doing one of the most distasteful things in business etiquette. They wanted to meet without communicating the "why" behind the intent and when questioned about it, replied with a passive aggressive tone. Arrogance will never work. 

Most people I know in Silicon Valley have in general 5-7 meetings a day, divided in 30 minutes slots and some buffer for longer encounters.  I personally divide my schedule into maker and manager schedule. Mornings matter a lot, that's when I meditate, cook, exercise and tackle the most important task of the day. I don't like morning meetings because they break my flow. 

Fortunately, I am at a point in my career that I can be selective on meetings. The approach of being default to yes, was wonderful a couple of years ago. It's not functional anymore. 

Think before you send people a note. Ask great questions or explain things like:

  • This is who I am
  • This is what I am working on
  • This is why I would like to meet 
  • Date / Time / Method Suggestion 
  • Provide a way out and be polite

I work hard to be one of the most responsive people on earth. Sometimes I miss control of my inbox, but it does not take more than 1.5 week for me to get back to people. 

This specific person was so aggressive and rude when I kept pushing for the answer to this questions that I feel sorry for the ones that actually pay their organization to do some of those distasteful tours of Silicon Valley. Respect and effectiveness are king. 

 

My First Public Talk in Spanish

For a while I was the only person at SendGrid responsible for growing the company internationally, specially in Latin America. In less than one year with no sales team, we got over 7,000 clients, including Walmart Brazil and Rakuten Brazil. 

Since I was running solo my strategy was a combination of community building, PR, thought leadership and word of mouth while yielding 2 factors. Silicon Valley prestige combined with solid SaaS growth. Basically telling a good story and making us look sexy for the 0.1% of elite founders and investors.

No Back to my First Talk in Spanish  


We hosted an event in Buenos Aires for startups, founders and developers. Our "usual" SendGrid growth Meetup.  Martin Vivas, a major startup connector in Argentina was kind enough to connect us with MSFT Argentina and we setup our event at their fancy Puerto Madero offices. Gracias! 

As you can see I spoke with a recent dislocated shoulder since I had the stupid idea of running a Thought Mudder during my flight connection in LAX. Traveling to 2 countries in Latam, with 36 meetings in 5 days while not being able to raise my arm was a humbling experience. I had to ask for help and assistance for more than 40 people total. It made me more present, focused only on the activities with the highest outputs. 

It turned out bueno. Un Saludo!

Talk Given in October, 2014 at Microsoft Buenos Aires at SendGrid Growth Meetup. To learn more about SendGrid go to sendgrid.com and about Pedro go to pedrosorren.com



5 Cognitive Distortions of People Who Get Stuff Done

I spent a decent amount of time this weekend browsing VCs websites and blogs, trying to learn as much as possible. It was quite interesting. 

By far the simplest and most effective one was Bloomberg's Beta manual (not the website). It's hosted on GitHub as a ReadMe file. It's well written and minimalist. Love it. 

This year I was one of the 300 15' Future Founders and that came as a delightful surprise. 

I found a link to this presentation on their website and am reposting it here. The following slides are a great representation of my personality and of some of the people I respect the most in life. 

Onward and Happy Monday. 

Pedrosorren.com Week in Review #04 (May 3rd - May 10th)

 

I have been failing miserably at having the discipline to send the weekly reviews. So this is another attempt to recreate this habit. Thank you for paying attention and, as always, please reply with interesting insights that you might have. 

#SwiftClasses

Some of you may know that I made the decision to learn how to code and ship a very simple meditation related app before Q3 starts. I've been taking classes twice a week at General Assembly here in San Francisco. 

GA is not a great school. I think my teacher is a great coder, but terrible at teaching. I'd rather have someone that is not a genius engineer but is good with people. The online tutorials combined with the super helpful TAs are a good combo and since it's not a cheap course it gives the necessary discipline to get things done. 

#UdemyCourse 

I am very excited about this side project. Lately, I've been collaborating with Reinaldo Normand, one of my mentors and dear friend. We are doing an online video series about how to move to Silicon Valley as a foreigner. There will be a free, beginners guide and a paid exclusive course for the most advanced folks out there.

If you are a student, entrepreneur or want to come as an executive, fill this survey out. The reception on this has been tremendous and just with the idea we have over 65 students interested in doing the course. 

#Uno

During the past 2 weeks, Uno has not seen any progress. In between work and side projects + GreenCard, it just did not become a priority. 

#Exercising

I gained some weight this past couple of weeks. Not a lot, but it sucks. This week I am back at eating better and exercising. I have already separated my gym clothes for the entire week and after this email will cook most of my meals. 

#500Startups 

Last week I was a keynote at WMD.co. It was the first time I did public speaking for over 400 people in Silicon Valley at a premier conference, and I am happy to say that my slides are the top 5 most accessed after the conference. You can check them out here. 

Have a wonderful week. Meditate, hug people and follow your dreams. 

Onward,

@pedrosorren